Southeast Asia sees only a trickle of international tourism

FILE PHOTO: Southeast Asia has started to reopen, but tourists aren't coming.

Southeast Asia, for decades a tourism hotspot, has been slowly reopening to international tourists, but despite cracking the door open, most countries are only seeing a trickle of tourism at best. Businesses in the tourism sector like hotels, tour guides and more saw their livelihoods destroyed by the Covid-19 pandemic and are eager to see international travellers returning.

But the rules and restrictions and extra costs and various hoops are dampening enthusiasm and seeing numbers of arrivals reduced drastically. Plus, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, governments and authorities are constantly uncertain of what new restrictions and closures might take place.


Bali has long been one of the top tourist destinations in the world, with 50% of its economy coming from the tourism sector. In 2019, the tropical island saw 6 million international visitors arrive. In October, the government there attempted to reopen to fully vaccinated travellers from a set of 19 approved safe countries.

With stringent rules, only 2 people travelled to the island by boat at Benoa Port as the international airport is not yet operating. Now after 2 full months of being reopened, just 45 people have arrived internationally, according to the local tourism office.


Thailand has seen more visitors than most countries, with over 100,000 international travellers arriving into the country after the reopening on November 1 with multiple entry schemes. After strict Sandbox openings first, the revised Test & Go scheme that allows tourists from 63 approved countries to enter with only a 1-day quarantine while waiting for RT-PCR test results has still been described as overly complex and has discouraged many would-be travellers from coming to Thailand.


The tropical resort island of Langkawi was the first tourist destination to reopen in Malaysia as the world tries to climb out of the Covid-19 pandemic. But while government officials and local businesses that rely on tourism had predicted and hoped for thousands of international travellers, only a few hundred have arrived so far.


Vietnam had planned several schemes to reopen to international tourism, with the holiday island of Phu Quoc as the first trial before wider reopening in the new year. But the trial program last month brought in a few dozen tourists only, compared to November of 2019 before the pandemic when 1.8 million people visited the country.

SOURCE: New York Times

World News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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